Agave americana is also known as Century Plant, Sentry Plant, Maguey, American Aloe and Mexican Soap Plant, and is a member of the Asparagaceae family. It is native to Mexico and the southwestern United States.
These plants thrive in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10; UK hardiness H2 (fairly tolerant of low temperatures but will not survive a frost).
Agave americana mediopicta alba photograph by Juan Ignacio 1976.
It is an ornamental succulent, and they are often chosen as a specimen plant or as additions to rock and cactus gardens, and dry beach gardens.
Agave americana plants are remarkable for their rosette-forming, three to five foot (90 to 150 cm) long grey-green or blue-green, prickly-edged leaves; these have sharp spikes at the tip.
The plant typically grows three to six feet (90 to 180 cm) in height with a six to ten foot (1.8 to 3 m) spread outdoors.
Agave americana Marginata photograph by Juan Ignacio 1976; CC.
In cooler climates they make excellent container plants, and grow to a much smaller size when grown in a contained space.
Despite the Century Plant moniker, Agave americana typically live for about 10 to 30 years.
Near the end of their life cycle, they will send up a singular stalk reaching 25 to 30 feet (8 to 10 m). This has loosely branched clusters of showy greenish-yellow flowers.
Agave americana varirty Variegata photograph by John Rusk; CC.
These herbaceous perennials prefer full sun or partial shade and sandy or rocky, well-drained soils.
Planted outdoors, they should be watered thoroughly from spring through the fall, but much less so during the winter months.
They are tolerant of drought and dry soils.
Indoor plants require more watering and should be placed near windows where they receive plenty of bright sun.
It takes years to produce seeds from Agave americana, so propagation is best done via the offsets that shoot up around the mother plant.
Plant offsets in a potting and cacti soil mix with a neutral pH.
As these plants are susceptible to root rot, adding small stones to the base of the container will help ensure good drainage.
Agave americana var. Mediopicta photograph by peganum; CC.